Letter | Published:

The myth of the mad March hare

Naturevolume 309pages549550 (1984) | Download Citation



From literature1, proverb2 and scientific publications3–6, two aspects of the behaviour of the brown hare, Lepus capensis, are well known. First, they ‘go mad’ in March. Second, boxing is their most spectacular form of male–male competition for mates. Here we show that ‘madness’ is no more a feature of March than of the other months of their long breeding season, and that boxing does not represent intrasexual competition but an interaction between the sexes whereby a female attempts to prevent a male from mating. Finally, we discuss why misleading statements about hare behaviour have remained unchallenged for centuries.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Carrol, L. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1982).

  2. 2

    Brewer, E. C. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Cassei, Fetter & Galpin, London, 1894).

  3. 3

    Darwin, C. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Murray, London, 1871).

  4. 4

    Vesey-Fitzgerald, B. British Game (Collins New Naturalist, London, 1946).

  5. 5

    Harrison Matthews, L. British Mammals (Collins New Naturalist, London, 1952).

  6. 6

    Lincoln, G. A. J. Zool. 174, 1–14 (1974).

  7. 7

    Corbet, G. B. & Southern, H. N. The Handbook of British Mammals 2nd edn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1977).

  8. 8

    Hewson, A. & Taylor, M. Acta theriol. 20, 247–254 (1975).

  9. 9

    Broekhuizen, S. & Maaskamp, F. J. Zool. 193, 499–516 (1981).

  10. 10

    Broekhuizen, S. & Maaskamp, F. Z. Säugetierk. 47, 22–32 (1982).

  11. 11

    Emlen, S. T. & Oring, L. W. Science 197, 215–223 (1977).

Download references

Author information


  1. Ferndale, Wick Lane, Brent Knoll, Highbridge, Somerset, TA9 4BU, UK

    • Anthony J. F. Holley
  2. Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Durham, Durham, DH1 3JB, UK

    • Paul J. Greenwood


  1. Search for Anthony J. F. Holley in:

  2. Search for Paul J. Greenwood in:

About this article

Publication history



Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.